5 TIPS FOR CONFERENCE NETWORKING
There are two sides to any conference, the sharing of knowledge in the sessions and the people you meet.
Many conferences make the pitch for delegates based on who’s coming, the organisations represented and the opportunities this represents.
But to make the most of the ‘soft’ side of these events, you need to do the following.
- Have a Game Plan
No point in going if you don’t know why you’re going. Your organisation may be the sponsor, or you’ve been sent along as a professional development opportunity, but you need a few reasons or goals to leverage the contacts you’ll be making.
You may wish to make some contacts in some new sectors you don’t have reach into, or gain market intelligence, or raise the profile of what your organisation does.
The event may also be an opportunity to meet with stakeholders and have the off-line conversations that aren’t possible in a formal setting or engagement.
- Talk to as many new people as possible
Make the most of the free time, the breaks and seating opportunities. Aim to meet as many people as possible, and yes, that means introducing yourself to complete strangers.
You’ve invested the time and money, make the most of it and don’t stick to some buddies and work colleagues, be proactive.
The same applies when you’re there as a group- split up and maximise the number of people collectively you get to talk with. So at the conference dinner, aim to sit at different tables, or mingle in different parts of the room.
You may also have a list of delegates on arrival, or beforehand, and so do your homework and work out who to find and talk to, perhaps allocating several target people to each of your team.
You’re all in the same boat, in a room full of strangers, maybe far from home, and so you’ve got that in common, plus you’ve the program, speakers, content to talk about to start a conversation with.
Remember to get their business card / contact details along the way.
- Prepare your Narrative
Come ready with some talking points about what message you want to get out there.
These can be relevant examples of your work and clients (so if you’re talking to someone from government you use a public sector example), something new your company is bringing to market, basically information you want the people you are talking to recall down the track.
This should support and reinforce your networking goals for being there. If you’re in sales or business development, remember this first connection is just the starting point, don’t expect to close right there and then.
- Connect Afterwards
There is no point in doing the above if you don’t stay in touch. Within a few days of getting back to the office write a personalised email to all the people that you met.
Invite to connect with them via LinkedIn too so they can be ‘sticky’ contacts and an audience for your future updates.Depending on your objectives and their situation, some contacts will need further cultivating over time and so book some dates to stay in touch with them in your calendar.
It’s vital that when you get back to your office that you not only share the information you learnt to your colleagues, or if you fly solo perhaps as a blog article, but also the intelligence you gained from the people you met.
The information may not mean much to you, but could be helpful to others and it builds up the corporate knowledge and may help identify opportunities and follow-up actions for the team.
It’s also a good idea to write down information about the people you met in your contacts database while its fresh (at the airport waiting lounge perhaps) to help you remember them and inform your follow-up steps before you get stuck into the day to day work on your return.